From Tony Osauzo, Benin
A peaceful protest led by former Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Osagie Obayuwana, in Benin, was allegedly disrupted by members of the state Public Works Volunteers (PUWOV), who claimed that the protest was against the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
The protesters in their hundreds, bearing several placards with various inscriptions against the federal government on insecurity and poverty in the country, said they had gathered at the New Benin Market where they intended to march from to the town when men of PUWOV swooped on them, destroyed some of the banners and allegedly destroyed their laptop from where they were playing music.
Speaking at the Edo State Secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Dr. Obayuwan condemned the action of PUWOV and called for the disbandment of the group.
“We gathered at New Benin Market, we were to move to this place, there is an agency of the state government called PUWOV they are volunteers on matters of public works, they attacked us, destroyed our banners, took away our laptop with which we are playing music and smashed our music box, they said we are against the government of Obaseki, how can that be?”
He explained that the protest was a nationwide mobilization against insecurity and mass poverty in the country.
“Our coming out today is to say that the Nigerian people can no longer keep quiet, at no time in the history of our country has the insecurity situation ever been as terrible as it is today, you can’t travel from town to town, even within your village, you can’t go from your house to your farm; children in schools have been objects of kidnap.
“Seventeen governors have called on the president to speak to the nation; even this yesterday over 200 students have been kidnapped in an Islamic school in Niger state; enough is enough.
“From our own assessment of the situation, we have seen that there is a direct relationship between insecurity and poverty. Where there is no justice, there cannot be peace and we are saying that the security of life is a fundamental right that all of us are entitled to and it is also a duty that the government owes to all of us.
“They should abolish all anti-poor policies; We demand for state police and even city police, we condemn the killing of policemen and destruction of government facilities”, Obayuwana said just as he condemned the sack of workers by the Kaduna state government and the planned increase in the price of petroleum products.
But in his reaction, the coordinator of PUWOV, Mutari Osagie, debunked the claim that the protest was disrupted.
He as in as much as the State Government encourages everyone to protest as part of their legitimate right, it must be done in such a way as not to undermine security of the state.
He said what the PUWOV did was simply to request the protesters to go to secretariate of the NUJ and thereafter Government House to register their protest.
“There was no property of the protesters that was destroyed by my officers today and neither are we preventing anybody from protesting.
“However, if we must protest, lets do it in such a way as not to put the fragile security in the country and Edo in jeopardy,” he exlained.